Uri Avnery's Specious Attack on the One State Solution
Uri Avnery may be the most sophisticated defender of Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. He defends this ethnic cleansing while posing as a great friend and sympathizer of Palestinians, supposedly proven by his opposition to Israel's occupation of the West Bank and support for a "two state solution." Avnery's latest piece, "The Donkey of the Messiah," will, with its feigned concern for "being realistic" and specious "logic," no doubt mislead some people to abandon their support for the essence of any One State Solution, which is the right of return (to their homes and villages inside what is now called Israel) of the approximately seven million Palestinian refugees and compensation for property stolen from them by the Israeli state. Here is why Avnery's "logic" and "realism" are indeed specious.
Avnery's first salvo against the One State Solution consists of knocking down a straw man argument, namely the argument that, as many advocates of One State mistakenly argue, "facts on the ground (i.e. the Jewish settlements in the West Bank) make a two state solution impossible." It is not hard to knock down this strawman argument, and Avnery does it quite effectively. He argues that the Jewish settlements in the West Bank could be moved just as other Jewish settlements were moved from Gaza and North Sinai. Knocking down a strawman argument is a very powerful debater's trick; it works as long as the audience loses sight of the fact that it is a strawman argument that is being knocked down.
So why then is the "facts on the ground" argument merely a strawman argument? It's a strawman argument because the reason why there should be a One State Solution has nothing to do with whether or not a Two State Solution is or is not possible given "facts on the ground." Even if a Two State Solution (meaning the denial of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees, limiting their residence only to the "Palestinian" state, not the part of Palestine now called Israel) were easy to implement it would still be morally wrong.
Avnery, however, doesn't limit himself to knocking down a strawman argument. He anticipates what I say in the above paragraph and executes a pre-emptive strike against it, asserting that it is simply not realistic to base one's view here on what is morally right. He writes:
Avnery is dead wrong about what is and what is not "realistic." Avnery argues that non-Jews and Jews cannot realistically be expected to live together in one state, citing their different religions and languages, and pointing to a list of nations in which there are efforts of minority ethnic groups to break away from their "One State" as evidence. But Americans include Spanish and Chinese speakers and others as well, with different religions and cultures, and nobody argues that the United States cannot remain one state.
What prevents people of different ethnic, religious, language or racial groups from living together peaceably is not their differences but the deliberate efforts of ruling elites to use these differences to pit people against each other to divide-and-rule over them. Croats and Serbs intermarried extensively until, following Tito's death, the communist rulers of each group orchestrated violence against the other in the name of their own group in order to use divide-and-rule to hold onto power that they feared losing in a wave of opposition (from both Croats and Serbs) to their one-party communist rule. Realism starts by understanding how ruling elites use divide-and-rule this way, spreading this understanding far and wide, and aiming to remove from power ruling elites who use divide-and-rule this way. The hostility and fear and mistrust that exists between Jews and non-Jews in Palestine is entirely caused by the efforts of elites (and would-be elites) to control "their own" people by making them fear the other. Israeli rulers control Jews by making them fear non-Jews and Palestinian elites (in Hamas and the PLO) control non-Jews by posing as their defenders against "the Jews."
The way that Israeli leaders make Jews fear non-Jews is by attacking non-Jews in the name of "the Jews"; by ethnically cleansing 78% of Palestine of non-Jews in the name of making it a "Jewish state"; by thereby making the non-Jews angry at the "Jewish state" and by telling Jews that the anger is vicious irrational anti-Semitic hatred of people just for being Jewish. Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, knowingly lied to Jews in 1947-8, telling them that "the Arabs want to drive the Jews into the sea."
Avnery would have his readers believe that realism means accepting, as a permanent fact of life, that ruling elites will remain in power and will use divide-and-rule to pit people who differ in some way against each other. On the contrary, realism means identifying the real cause of ethnic conflict and aiming to end it. The realistic way to end it is to build a movement of ordinary people against the elites who foment ethnic conflict. And the first realistic step in this process is to explain to people the fact that elites are using divide-and-rule to control and dominate them, and that things like ethnic cleansing are injustices aimed at fomenting the anger on which divide-and-rule is based. In other words, a realistic solution needs to do what Avnery avoids like the plague: explain to Jews in Israel (and to the general public in countries such as the United States whose governments support the Israeli government) that the idea of a Jewish state based on removing most non-Jews is not an idea that helps ordinary Jews but is, on the contrary, an idea that enables a Jewish elite to dominate and oppress ordinary Jews. Anybody who doubts how real this oppression is should recall the massive demonstrations in Israel in the summer of 2011 against the growing economic inequality that was making it impossible for working class Jews even to pay the rent (which is why the protest started with people living in tents on Rothschild Blvd. in Tel Aviv.)
Avnery's "realism" is actually the farthest thing from it. To see this, look at what Avnery offers as his "realistic" solution:
The two "sister nations" in "two adjoining states" in Avnery's hoped-for scenario will both be ruled by the same Jewish and Palestinian elites who presently control Israel and the Palestinian Authority and Gaza. These elites are thoroughly anti-democratic, privileged, dominating and (in the case of the Jewish ones) extremely wealthy. Their control over "their own" people today depends on their posing as protectors against the boogeyman enemy--"the Jews" or "the Arabs" as the case may be. This would not change if there were two states. Ordinary Jews and non-Jews would continue to be oppressed by "their own" ruling elites and pitted against each other, occasionally violently. To see what two states like this would look like, one only has to look at the "two states" of Israel and the officially un-occupied and "Palestinian-ruled" Gaza Strip.
The most realistic thing people can do is to start Thinking about Revolution. Until we do this we will remain in a world where we have no power to affect the big decisions, and the likes of Uri Avenery will keep telling us that realism means learning to accept that our only choice is to live with what the elites do to control us.
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